Lights in the Sky: A Double Take
By Rod C Washington
It has now been a year since I returned to my hobby of night sky photography and I have seen many different types of lights in the sky. Most of them are explainable; satellites, spacecraft, high-flying aircraft, and other lights that have totally celestial explanations.
I have spotted some lights that I can’t easily explain or readily identify. With a little time and amateur sleuthing, an explanation was found for most of them. As the year progressed I seemed to have acquired some tools and news skills to help with identifying the lights. One main tool is the awesome software app for my iPhone titled Sky Guide, which also has an add-on for satellites and celestial objects, and it is pretty accurate when you track these objects in the sky
Even with the new skills and tools, there are some lights that don’t have an easy explanation and remain to this day in the unidentified category.
November 20, 2015 7:47PM MST: (North Phoenix, Arizona) from our backyard, we noticed a reddish-orange light hovering just above the eastern horizon. I didn’t see it I ascend or descend when it first appeared. I proceeded to take several pictures of it and watched as it just faded out and disappeared. I looked at the footage later that night and noticed that it didn’t go in just one direction, it flew in a pretty erratic flight pattern before disappearing into nothingness. You can clearly see this when you play the pictures back in sequence.
A more recent incident happened on the night of December 10, 2015 this also witnessed from my backyard. Around 6:50 PM I noticed blinking white light moving west above neighboring houses. The light was high in the sky high and blinking in intervals of three, then blank and then starting over. It seemed to be above the clouds as it moved along. I swung the camera around to capture it and then I noticed a second white light moving west, blinking in the same sequence, heading south. Then I noticed that they were blinking the same sequence in synch with each other. The second light made an abrupt turn to the west, now following the flight path of the first light. As the two lights moved toward a distant tree line, I noticed a third light moving towards the south, blinking in the same sequence as the first two. The third light also made an abrupt turn toward the west and was following the same flightpath as the as the first two. I tried to identify these lights, and strained as I listened for any engine noise, but didn’t hear anything. I kept seeing these blinking lights for what I would say was for about 45 minutes to an hour. I caught most of them with my camera.
In the days that followed, I’ve tried to find a reasonable explanation for the blinking lights. One possible conclusion was that they were part navigation lights belonging to the new F 35 fighter. Luke Air Force base is west of us, and they are one of the training bases for the new fighter jet. When I saw the last group of lights that night, I heard slight rumbling of what sounded like jet engine noises akin to fighter planes.
I did a little bit of research and I was able to find video of F 35 flying at night and the night and the light sequences seemed similar. I am not saying that this is the explanation for the lights but it’s a strong possibility and it is a good example of what a little bit of research can do in these situations.
No, you will not find an explanation for all unidentified lights in the sky, but being an informed observer you can identify most of them.
By Rod Washington
Rod is a blogger, writer, filmmaker, photographer, daydreamer who likes to cook. Rod produces and directs the web series, CUPIC: Diary of an Investigator. He is also the editor, producer and administrator of TNC Network.